Take To The “Air” ~ 52 Ancestors #16

Me and BrotherIn 1955 my brother Gordon Smith Wilson, who was 18 years older than I, graduated High School and joined the United States Air Force.  He left home and began to travel the world.



In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson made the decision to send U.S. combat forces C130into battle in Vietnam. My brother was among the first to go. He had achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant and was the LoadMaster for the C130 cargo plane. His unit would fly supplies and fresh troops into the combat zones and then fly the wounded and dead out. He was very good at his job and could even load a plane in the midst of the jungles without a scale.

Brother in Vietnam
Gordon, bottom left

About a year into his first tour in Vietnam (He voluntarily served 3 tours) my parents received a letter from the Air Force about Gordon. I remember it so vividly. It was a commendation letter for a heroic act that he had performed. His unit had been flying some wounded soldiers out of a combat zone when their plane was hit on the right side making a hole in the right gas tank. As the gasoline slowly leaked out, the plane began to tip to one side. Knowing they had to distribute some weight to correct this problem, my brother, using sacks filled with grain, climbed up inside the right wing and shoved the sacks as far into it as he could. He did this until there was enough weight to level the plane. They were able to fly the aircraft quite a distance until they could safely land it. Gordon’s quick thinking and courage saved many men that day. He was indeed a hero.

Over the 3 tours that he completed in Vietnam, Gordon was shot 3 times, Once in each of his legs and once in his shoulder. He was captured by the Viet Cong but was able to escape and he was exposed to radiation which left horrendous scars across the bridge of his nose. Through it all, regardless of how anyone back home felt about this war or about those who fought in it, my brother felt he was doing what was needed to be done to protect the country that he loved.

Gordon Smith Wilson was born on April 06, 1937, and died on February 12, 2018.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


3 Days Too Late

mom & brotherBack in 1981 my Mother, in one of her typical neurotic episodes, disowned my older brother. Although he was 44 years old, had been married twice, had several children and had retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service, he had refused to do as he was told. This was a betrayal in my Mothers’ eyes. It wasn’t the first time I witnessed this type of behavior from her and it wasn’t the last.

That was the last time I ever saw my brother, Gordon Smith Wilson. He was 18 years older than I. When I was 6 months old he graduated High School and joined the Air Force. In the early 60’s he was shipped to Vietnam. He ended up doing 3 tours there by choice. He was a load master on the C-130 Aircraft and was very proficient at loading the planes without the benefit of scales. He was shot 3 different times, each time in the lower Brother in Vietnamextremities. He also received radiation burns on his face when an airplane exploded near him. Because of all the horrific things he saw while in war he became an alcoholic. I only saw him about 10 times in my life. The longest stretch was in 1981. He came to stay with our Mother for 2 weeks. He ended up only staying a week. He left abruptly with no explanation and my Mother said we will never hear from nor see him again.

My Mother disowned me because I married someone she did not approve of. (We have been married for 31 years). She passed away in 1999. From that time on I began searching for my brother. When the internet became available I began to do searches. I made phone calls and sent letters to potential matches, but I had no luck. On February 1st, 2018 during one of my searches I finally found got a hit. I found his information on one of those background checking sites. It gave just enough facts that I knew that it was him. I was ecstatic. My husband and I were leaving for California on the 3rd so I figured I Obituarywould pay for the info after we got back on the 10th. When we returned, life got busy, so I couldn’t get back to it until the 15th. When I put in his information up popped his obituary! He had passed away on February 12th. I missed connecting with him by 3 days. I was devastated. I was able to find some information on 2 of his boys so my plan is to contact them.


The moral of the story is: When you find potential information on a long lost loved one, do not put off making contact. We are not guaranteed tomorrow!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.